MEDIA RELEASE: Cleaners say homelessness likely if penalty rates are abolished

Forget about home ownership, if the Abbott government embraces a plan by Australia’s peak employer lobby group to abolish weekend rates, cleaners will struggle just to pay the rent.

Father Bob Maguire will today join hundreds of angry cleaners at 2.30pm at Trades Hall, for International Justice for Cleaners Day, to march on the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s (ACCI) Melbourne office demanding it withdraws its proposal to strip penalty rates from Awards.

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Cleaners face wage cuts of up to $20,000 a year if penalty rates are abolished.

Today’s rally comes in the wake of recent comments by Treasurer Joe Hockey who told those wanting to buy a home to “get a good job… that pays good money”, while at the same time as his government looks to slash the income of the lowest paid workers. 

Australia’s peak employer body’s submission urges to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Workplace Relations to support a system where penalty rates are no longer included in the Awards of cleaners, retail and hospitality workers and millions of other Australians. 

ACCI CEO Kate Carnell has repeatedly attacked penalty rates in the media, describing them as “excessive” and "no longer reflect(ing) community standards".

This comes as HSBC reported last week that Australian home prices rose 24 per cent in the past three years. Recent data reveals that 60 per cent of low income Australian renters are in housing stress and capital city rents rose at twice the rate of CPI between 2005 and 2010. 

“We have an out of touch government that doesn’t understand the pressures facing ordinary working families, being goaded by an out-of-touch business lobby group to cut weekend rates – who don’t respect the sacrifices people like cleaners make to work around the clock. Abolishing penalty rates will entrench as class of working poor in Australia,” said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

“On International Justice for Cleaners Day we recognise that cleaners work around the clock keeping our city clean. Without them, Melbourne couldn’t function. Shopping centres, schools, hospitals, the airport and offices would all quickly become a hygiene hazard and unusable,” said Ben Redford, Assistant Secretary of United Voice, the cleaners union. 

“We also remember that cleaners are some of Australia’s lowest paid workers. Many are already locked out of the housing market. But penalty rates help them keep their heads above water and compensate them for the huge toll this work takes on their lives.” 

“The campaign by ACCI to abolish penalty rates would have an utterly devastating impact. Forget about home ownership, cleaners are saying if that happened they could be living in their cars.” 

“Cleaners work very hard to do their jobs. They work when most of us are relaxing or asleep. They give up precious time with their family and it’s only fair they should be compensated for that with penalty rates,” said Father Bob Maguire who will speak at the rally today.

Media contact: Tim Petterson, United Voice (Vic) Communications Director, 0438 399 973


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